A wise friend of mine asked me a question last month: do you want to save the world or do you want to make money? My initial reaction was, both! But, I took some time to ponder this question, and I realized that I want and need to make money. We have two sons in college, so money is important.
There is a new type of corporation in 11 states (not my state yet) called a B Corp, or Benefits Corporation, that was created for entrepreneurs that want to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems (see the Certified B Corp website). So, maybe soon there will be a way for me to set up the company to both make money and change the world.
Every entrepreneur needs to have a vision and here is my vision: I want to create an outrageously successful company, one that is as cool as Google, one that every kid getting out of school wants to work for. I want cool meeting spaces and a foozball table and a meditation room. And, I envision a diverse team of really smart people who can continually help to evolve the way students learn. To make this vision come true, I had better focus on making money.
That said, making money cannot be my only driver. If you are going to be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to solve a problem. As my friend and advisor, Bruce, always tells me, “create a painkiller, not an aspirin.” You need to solve a real problem, and do it in a way that is authentic, and is differentiated from all the other organizations that are trying to solve this problem. Keep in mind, if you are solving a real problem, there are a lot of other smart people trying to solve that problem. So, cut through the clutter and make sure you are unique and provide value.